There are several precautions every household should take to protect against fire. Your first line of defense is to install smoke alarms, which should be located on each floor of your home. Secondly, your home should be equipped with fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers can help save lives by putting out small fires. They should be placed in rooms where fires are most likely to break out, such as the kitchen, garage, or workshop.
Fire extinguishers can only save lives and prevent major damage if you know how to use them properly and in the right situation. The devices should only be used to put out small, confined fires. If the room is filled with smoke and/or the fire is large, leave the building immediately and let the fire department handle the blaze. Even if you decide it is safe to use your fire extinguisher, you should first call the fire department and make sure everyone has exited the building safely.
To better understand how to safely use fire extinguishers, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Choose the right extinguisher. Manufacturers make four different kinds of household extinguishers, each with its own “rating,” that are used to fight various types of fire.
Type A: Use on fires involving combustible materials, such as wood or paper
Type B: Use on flammable liquid fires, such as kitchen grease
Type C: Use on fires involving electrical equipment
Type ABC: For use on all types of fires listed above
Study the manufacturer’s operating manual to make sure you have the correct type of extinguisher for your home. Using the wrong extinguisher can actually cause a fire to spread rather than to put it out. Also, make sure to buy an extinguisher that is easy for you to handle and that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
- Plan ahead. You will need to act quickly if a fire breaks out, and you will not want to waste precious time trying to figure out how your extinguisher works. Take the time to read the extinguisher’s manual, and make sure you understand how to properly operate it before a fire breaks out. Check with your local fire department to see if a fire extinguisher training class is offered.
- Remember to PASS. In addition to reading the manual, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends the memory aid PASS to help remember the steps to extinguishing a fire. PASS stands for:
Pull the pin;
Aim low (at the base of the fire);
Squeeze the lever slowly; and
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
- Inspect your extinguisher. Extinguishers need to be replaced or recharged after each use. Also, you should periodically inspect your extinguisher to ensure it is working properly and does not need to be recharged.
- Make a safe exit. When using an extinguisher, keep your back to a clear and safe exit. This will allow you to make a quick escape if the fire is not easily contained.
Owning fire extinguishers and placing them in strategic locations throughout your home is not enough. It is essential that you understand when and how to use your extinguisher, as well as to recognize its limits.